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Full text of "Alvar Aalto and the architecture of Finland"

AT RICE UNIVERSITY 

DESIGNATES A SERIES OF REPORTS 
ON THOUGHTS AND INVESTIGATIONS 
FROM THE DEPARTMENT OF ARCHI- 
TECTURE. IT IS PUBLISHED IN THE 
BELIEF THAT THE EDUCATION OF 
ARCHITECTS CAN BEST BE ADVANCED 
IF TEACHERS, STUDENTS, PRACTITION- 
ERS, AND INTERESTED LAYMEN SHARE 
IN WHAT THEY ARE THINKING AND 
DOING. 

No. 4 MARCH, 1962 



ILLUSTR A TIONS 

Green Gold'i* 

Finnish Granite - Aalto's Office* 

National Pension Housing, Munkkiniemi* 

Teachers' College, Jyvaskyla* 

Seinajoki Church* 

Keski-Suomen Museo, Jyvaskyla* 

House of Culture, Helsinki* 

Saynatsalo 

Entrance from Bus Stop* 

Stairs to Upper Court* 

Brick and Window Detail* 

Shopping Area* 

Stairway Detail* 

Section through Library and Courtyard** 

East Facade** 



* Photographs courtesy of Scott D. Hamilton; Jr. 
** Photographs courtesy of Praeger Publisher's, New York. 



i 



AALTO'S ARCHITECTURAL HERITAGE 



While many architects in the United States are clutching in the 
vacuum of leadership left by the death of Frank Lloyd Wright, 
few have thought to look outside our country. Instead they speak 
of Minoru Yamasaki, Edward D. Stone, Paul Rudolph and until 
recently of the late Eero Saarinen. However, a group of Scandin- 
avians comes the closest in assuming the spirit of Wright because 
of their search for an honest expression in natural materials. 
Aalto is the foremiost of this group of Finns, Norwegians and few 
Swedes. The rest of the world has gone mad with rational archi- 
tecture of steel and glass boxes with endless repetitions of space 
cages, or they have gone to the other extreme by using silly 
chrome and tinsel twists and curves that are unrelated to the 
practical problems of the users. 

Why is this isolated Finnish architect, Alvar Aalto, a Master 
Architect? First, to understand Aalto, one must know the Finland 
he personifies, the national romantic movement from which he 
emerged, and the direction in which Finnish architecture is mov- 
ing. His influence on the formation of "Scandinavian Modern, " 
its impact on the world of the early 30's, and his continued leader- 
ship make him a Master Architect. 

The explanation for Aalto' s work can be found in his devotion to 
little Finland, his position as its most honored citizen, his assumed 
obligations during peace and war, and his past, present, and future 
projects, and the laboratory conditions under which he creates. It 
also explains why his greatest efforts are at home rather than o.or- 
seas. 

As in the case of the other univer salists, Aalto tries to be the total 
artist. To him, each problem demands a unique solution. He has 
no dogmatic philosophy to trap his freedom of movement. Aalto 
feels free to explore, and he finds his form of truth in Architecture. 
Because of the high esteem, the Finnish architect has power and 
freedom in dealing with his clients. They usually come with limit- 
ed budgets and give the architect complete freedom to solve their 
problems and deal with the miost practical solutions, and Aalto 
is a very practical man with details. He feels that no money should 
be spared on luxury items or mistakes in an economical society. 
If an architect wastes money, it is a scandal. 

Aalto refuses to lecture, write books, attend congresses, to self- 
advertise or court publicity. Because of this privacy, he has the 

page 1 



peace and solitude to concentrate on Architecture itself, not the 
fringe benefits. His vital energies and time are devoted to the 
"thing Itself. " 

In Finland the creative artist, athlete, or intellectual, as in an- 
cient Greece, is given a place of respect and honor. The mili- 
tarist, business entrepreneur, or politician is not popular ex- 
cept during crisis. For example, in Finland the Prime Minister 
calls upon Architect Aalto, not vice versa. In some respects 
the Finns treat Aalto as a living god, a position given in the past 
to Sibelius, Paavo Nurmi, and Marshal Mannerheim. Perhaps 
after Aalto, some of the designers such as Tapio Wirkkala, 
Ilmari Tapiovaara, or Timo Sarpaneva, or some Olympic hero 
in skiing will take his place. 

Finland lies at the cross-roads of east and west historically and 
has come under a multitude of influences. Finland was under 
Swedish domination until 1809 when she surrendered to become a 
semi-autonomous Duchy cf Russia. The Russians used dictatorial 
edicts to Russianize the Finns. They also brought Carl Ludwig 
Engel, the first of a series of foreign architects sent to Finland 
by the Russians, to plan the city of Helsinki. Earlier he had plan- 
ned Talinn and St, Petersburg. The third influence was German, 
inasmuch as Germany was the only principal power on the Baltic, 
excluding Russia and Sweden, with whom the newly independent 
nation could ally after 1917. Even until the German defeat during 
World War II, a German prince was considered as a possible 
Finnish monarch. This close influence was manifest in the nuna- 
ber of Finns who attended German universities and who learned 
the German language. The two countries were also closely tied 
by trade contracts. With the outbreak of World War II, when 
Germany fought Russia through Finland and the Finnish soldiers 
were forced under the armistice to drive the Germans from Lap 
land, this exchange stopped. The fourth and current influence is 
Anglo-Saxon, American business and English culture. English 
replaced German as the third language, after Finnish and Swedish. 
Some say Finland has the oldest people and is the youngest nation 
of Europe, and America has the youngest people and the oldest 
government of the world. 

Not only does geography place Finland in an isolated position be- 
tween east and west, but the Finnish people are solitary rather 
than gregarious by nature. The Finns, as the Hungarian and Baltic 
peoples, migrated out of Central Russia and found privacy in the 
northern forest and lake country. Since the language is one of 
the most difficult in the world, there are few translations of Finnish 



page 2 



Digitized by the Internet Archive 

in 2011 with funding from 

LYRASIS IVIembers and Sloan Foundation 



http://www.archive.org/details/alvaraaltoarchit04hami 



works and few foreign books are introduced from abroad. This 
isolation, the cross-neutralization of the four major foreign in- 
cluences, the geographical and sea barrier, the solitary nature 
of the people, and the language barrier have proved to be assets. 
The Finns do not copy or imitate the latest vogue, are not awed by 
architectural magazines, and do not feel inferior in the face of 
accomplishments of wealthier or larger nations. 

A Finnish national movement, called the "National Romantic, " be - 
gan at the turn of the century. It was sired by the Russian attempt 
to stamp out 'Finnishness." Because Sibelius expressed in music 
the long suffering and deep feelings of the people for their beloved 
forests and lakes, and because his "Finlandia" portrayed the sounds 
of the singing woods and the tumult of battle, the government, upon 
gaining independence in 1919, granted the musician a lifetime pen- 
sion in gratitude. Aalto is referred to as the "Sibelius of Archi- 
tecture. " 

From this country of the north came the marathon and long dis- 
tance runners who captured the Olympic world and its gold medals 
even when there was no such country as "Suomi. " In architecture 
Eliel Saarinen startled the world with his design of the Helsinki 
Terminal in 1906 and by winning second prize in the Chicago Tribune 
Competition of 1922. It was just following this period that Alvar 
Aalto's star appeared when he won the prize for the Paimio Sana- 
torium in 1929, his New York World's Fair Pavilion in 1939, and 
his plywood furniture designs by ARTEK won acclaim. Similarly, 
Viljo Revell attained fame with his prize for the international com- 
petition for the Toronto Town Hall, termed by Frank Lloyd Wright 
as a significant architectural break-through; and Revell placed a- 
longside Eero Saarinen in the W. H. O. competition. This younger 
Saarinen was looked upon with pride as a "son of Finland, " although 
he emigrated to the United States with his father at an early age. 

This intense patriotism and identity with one's country in a search 
for the expression of basic honesty in the arts, whether in archi- 
tecture, glassware, ceramics, textiles, wood or nnetals, has 
caused Finland to be dubbed by the NEW YORK TIMES as the "Land 
of Integrity. " 

The National Romantic Movement, similar to Art Nouveau, may have 
ended with national independence, but the after-effects lingered. 
Eliel Saarinen, born in 1873. was its chief exponent. He was known 
for hi? Finnish Pavilion at the Paris World Fair m ]Q00. th.^ v.ork- 
ing and Uving center oi Hv.trrask near Helsinki, Central Stations 
in Helsinki and Viipuri (1904-14). Estobank in Reval (1912), the town 
halls in Lahti and Joensee (1912-13), and lastly his Chicago Tribune 

page 3 



Prize, after which, at age 55, he came to the United States to head 
Cranbrook Academy. Seldom known are his Military Academy at 
Munkkiniemi, the National Museum in Helsinki, and his suburban 
planning for Munkkiniemi. 

Lars Sonck, not as well known to the world, was the H. H. Richardson 
of the movement. He built in bold masonry forms using granite, con- 
crete, and space. He was a strong individualist who built churches 
while Saarinen designed public buildings with collaborators GeseUius 
and Lindgren The Kallio Church of 1908, the Church of St. Michael 
in Turku in 1905 (won as a student), the large Church of St. John in 
Tempere, the Helsinki Telephone Building (1909), the £ira Hospital, 
and the Stock Exchange of 1911 are among his buildings. Others of 
renown were Frosterus for the Stockman Department Store; Siren 
for the massive and classic Parliament Building; and Lindgren for 
his lyrical Olympic Stadium. 

During the twenties. Architects Aalto, Byrggman, and Huttenen grad- 
ually ennerged. They were influenced in the beginning by sonne of the 
currents of Central Europe. Bryggman designed hotels, chapels, in- 
surance offices, and the Vierumaki Sports Institute; and Aalto, now 
30, began his Turku practice with a block for an Agricultural Co- 
operative, followed rapidly with the Turun-Sanomat Building, and 
the Painnio Competition. Aalto is the last link with the national ro- 
mantic heritage that died with the coming of independence, the for- 
eign influences of the twenties (especially that of LeCorbusier ), the 
period of pre-war "Scandinavian Modern, " the post-war housing 
planning and reconstruction, and lastly this new period of internation- 
al competitions and technological advance. He continued on into a new 
adventurous period led by Wright, the late Mendellsohn, and by Mies, 
LeCorbusier, and Gropius, A^ the youngest of the pioneers, AaltO 
is just now making his full potential felt in the world of architecture. 



SUGGESTED REFERENCES: 

Sigfried Gideon, Space, Time and Architecture . 

Frederick Gutheim, Alvar Aalto , "Masters of World Architecture" 

series, Braziller, I960. 
Ed. and CI. Neuenschwander , Finnish Architecture and Alvar Aalto, 

Praeger, New York, 1954. 



page 4 




Finnish Granite - Aalto's Office 



HE ARCHITECTURE OF AALTO 



Sigfried Gideon, in his monumental book, Space, Time and Architecture , 
points to Aalto as important in the development of organic architecture: 

"The European development based on constructive means and 
the new visual approach had first to clear the atmosphere by 
pure functionalism. This was necessary, unavoidable, and 
healthful, but the moment that means of expression had been 
found, the clearing up accomplished, then again the urge to 
be organic could be felt. On another level and by other ways 
than Wright's, it is moving toward the organic. In the north- 
ern countries the work of the Finnish architect Alvar Aalto 
indicated this not only there. On another level European and 
American architecture may find a new and common path. " 

Amid the present confusion of shapes and forms plaguing the archi- 
tecture of western society, there are several courses being followed. 
Professor Aalto indicated this in his talk at the dedication of the Fin- 
nish architectural exhibition in Stockholm. First is the tendency to- 
wards large scale repetition and mionotony, as in public housing units. 
Second is the tendency towards exhibitionism in design concept: but 
lack of quality details. A third danger is that of giganticism -- the 
loss of human scale in society. 

Peter Blake ascribed mastery of space to Wright, of form to Le 
Corbusier, of structure to Mies, and in these same terms we can 
only think of Aalto as a master "of humanity" in architecture. Aalto's 
course has been one of treating human problems with human solutions, 
of adopting warm and natural materials^ and of treating each design 
as a laboratory research problem in itself. 

To maintain quality, he feels he must give attention to details. There- 
fore, he does not take the entirety of large commissions as American 
architects are prone to do. For example, having just planned the new 
Centrum for Helsinki, he would find it impossible to attempt more 
than a few buildings -- perhaps the opera house, post office annex, 
or a key business building -- and the other commissions would go 
to other architects either by competition or allocation. Then, within 
the opera house, he can design each detail down to the lamps and 
chairs. This is a total design of quality, not partial design with quan- 
tity. 

Aalto's concern for details, such as a staircase^ is best revealed 

page 5 



in his RIBA annual discourse in London, 1957, when he received the 

gold medal: 

"Once I tried to nnake a standardization of staircases. 
Probably that is one of the oldest of the standardizations. 
Of course, we design new staircase steps every day in 
connection with all our houses, but a standardized step 
depends on the height of the buildings and on all kinds 
of things. You cannot use the same step over all, be- 
cause it has to be elastic enough to be put in everywhere. 
We tried to solve the matter by an elastic system in which 
the steps were going in each other, but in such a way that 
the proportion of the horizontal to the vertical plane al- 
ways kept the formula which we have had since the time 
of the Renaissance, 1 think, from Giotto, and even earlier 
from the Periclean time. For the movement of a hunrian 
being there is a special rhythmical form. You can't make 
a step how you like: it must be a special proportion. I 
spoke about that in the University of Gothenburg. The 
Rector said, 'Stop for a while, I want to go to the library. ' 
He went downstairs to the library and came out with a book 
-- Dante's Divine Comedy. He opened it at the page where 
it says that the worst thing in the Inferno is that the stairs 
had wrong proportions. " 

Aalto is also a master in the various modes of architectural in- 
fluence. A recent issue of ZODIAC Magazine had an article, 
"Alvar Aalto and Light, " which explained how the long dark winters 
and bright summers with midnight sun have made the Finnish ar- 
chitects, especially Aalto, aware of light problems. Aalto began 
to master light with his Viipuri Library design, and continued with 
his control of natural and artificial light in his prize winning Aalborg 
Art Museum. He has also mastered the hieratic effect, whereby the 
visitor is tantalizingly led by hints and suggestions in the right dir- 
ection. His movements, rather than forced, are gently guided ar- 
chitecturally. The floor plan of the Essen Opera House reveals this 
simple and casual traffic flow. 

Since Finland is limited in materials for building, and the more 
economical materials are wood, brick, native stone, and Finnish 
copper, Aalto has become a master of the use of brick. He has 
used it almost exclusively in his projects from his experimental 
house at Murratsalo to the custom-designed tiles on the elevations 
of the Seinajoki Town Hall now under construction. 

As all Finns, he designs with the natural environment and contour 
in mind and makes his designs co-exist with the lumps of granite 



page 6 



that continually re-appear unexpectedly on building sites, and take 
into major consideration the severe cold of arctic winters similar 
to those in Alaska, Newfoundland, Greenland, or Icelai.d. Each of 
his designs has an ennphasis on simple beauty and planning, but 
each seems to be different in its painstaking detail and the plastic 
approach to space. But Aalto is a practical designer whether he 
be working on a mortuary ramp for the Vuoksenniska Church or 
providing an indoor backdrop for the green vines which the Finn's 
enjoy so much. 

In the early 30's, Aalto began to design his own furniture and lamps, 
manufactured by ARTEK, with which he furnishes his own archi- 
tecture. He frequently uses curves and undulating lines, and bent 
plywood proves a good media. He uses a similar design approach 
when working with glassware. 

Just as Aalto ranks first in architecture in Finland, his name appears 
first in the encyclopaedia and dictionary. Strangely enough, the def- 
inition of the word, "aalto, " is wave, and Aalto's designs are associ- 
ated with the undulating wave or the gently broken line. The lines of 
his work often appear in counterpoint or juxtaposition. As in the 
Helsinki House of Culture, the business portion of the complex seems 
more routine and has a box-like repetition, but suddenly it continues 
into an undulating curve that terminates abruptly. Nature, in its 
patterns, doesn't repreat rigidly either,but allows for playsome devi- 
ations or variations on a theme, hence the casual and unexpected, 
such as: A-A-A-a-A- A-B-A- A---a. 

Professor Aalto has only a small office, by American standards, 
and is ably assisted by his second wife, also an architect; a secretary 
business manager, and an office secretary. There are usually about 
nine experienced Finnish architects who are "project managers, " if 
such nominclature may be used in Finland, plus five young students 
or recent graduates working full or part time, and four assistants, 
usually from countries where Aalto might have projects. 

The steady cavalcade of visitors from all over the world makes it 
difficult to give attention to architectural details and VIP's at the 
same time. As a compromise, he has opened an architectural mus- 
eum to provide visitors with information on Aalto's projects around 
Finland. When possible. Professor or Madame Aalto tries to meet 
with these busloads of professors and students from Russia, Spain 
or Sweden, but notification must be given some days in advance of 
arrival. 

For many years little was known about the distant nation of Finland. 

page 7 



While the Iron Curtain was closed, only a few persons were en- 
route through Helsinki to the U.S. S. R. In consequence, Aalto 
always had fun when traveling trying to cope with the strange 
questions placed to him. He especially enjoyed "taking the mickey" 
out of pompous people. He would tell how his staff skiied across 
the lake ice from Otaniemi, of the all night sessions on black cof- 
fee and smoked reindeer meat, and how everyone would take a 
sauna after designing for 48 hours straight, come back refreshed; 
and have a dinner in celebration. Some of the tales of Aalto are 
somewhat legendary, but the heroes of the Kalevala were of his 
type. For example, Aalto exclaims that paper was created by 
God for architects to design on, and not for letters; this is one 
way to explain slowness in his ansv^ering letters. Aalto draws 
his strength from the pine forests which are filled with their own 
music and magic, from the thousands of lakes, and from the aura 
of the midnight sun suspended for hours as a golden disc. Each 
Finn is awed by the severity and ruthlessness of nature in the 
northland, and of the necessity of conforming to its laws. This 
develops humility and self-discipline not found in the warmer 
climes. Thus the search for the organic through natural mater- 
ials in a country in which austerity is more frequent than luxury 
tends toward an architecture of "humanity" with Aalto as its master. 

Aalto's output is not great by American standards, but surely this 
is not a measure of great Architecture. Many American firms 
with large volumes of projects do the most mediocre work. Eliel 
Saarinen was a great architect because of one building, the Hel- 
sinki Terminal, conceived in 1906 as a link between the East and 
the West. Louis I. Kahn, born opposite Finland on the island of 
Ostel, is great because of his Richards Research Building - one 
building alone. As Wright once remarked, the touch of the master 
can be found equally in the design of a chicken coop as an opara 
house. Aalto prefers opera houses. 

Aalto is remarkable in that his clients are satisfied. The users 
of his designs praise his works. Far from assuming a great-man 
pose, i.e. , dictating a design from on high, he is first and foremost 
concerned with the human being that must occupy a hospital bed or 
climb stairs on crutches. He is concerned with door pulls that are 
awkward and scratch the hands, or the simple play of light, sound, 
or smell, the vista down a hall, or the landscape beyond. 

Aalto's work falls into several classifications. As with most archi- 
tects, he does miany designs that remiain in the project stage, but 
most have been constructed. Most of his projects are of a cultural 
or civic nature, but he has a keen interest in group housing. 



page 8 



I 



HOUSING: 

Paimio; Sunila; Kaatua; N. P. I. ; Rovaniemi; Bromen. 

INDUSTRY: 

Sunila Mill; Paper Factory, Inkeroinen; Sawmill, Varkaus; Nitrogen 
Works, Oulu; Port Facilities, Gothenbury. 

TOWN PLANS: 

Sunila; Saynatsalo; Rovaniemi; Avesta; Oulu; Imatra; Naynashaimin. 

OPERA HOUSES: 

Helsinki House of Culture; Wolfsburg House of Culture; Theater 

and Concert Hall, Oulu; Essen Opera House; Leverkusen Competition; 

Helsinki Opera House. 

ART MUSEUMS: 

Aalborg Museum; Bagdad Museum; Leverkusen; Keski-Suomen; 
Helsinki. 

LIBRARIES: 

Viipuri; National Pension Institute; Leverkusen; Seinajoki. 

CHURCHES: 

Seinajoki; Imatra; Wolfsburg; Lyngby Chapel. 

TOWN HALLS: 

Saynatsalo; Kiruna; Seinajoki. 

BUSINESS BUILDINGS: 

Agricultural Co-op, Turku; Engineers' Club; Rautatalo, Helsinki; Enso- 
Gutzett, Helsinki; Stockman's Annex, Helsinki. 

UNIVERSITIES: 

Baker Dormitory, Massachusetts Institute of Technology; Sports Hall, 
Vienna; Sports Hall, Otaniemi; Technical Institute Master Plan, Otaniemi; 
Teacher's College, Jyvaskyla; University Master Plan, Oulu. 



page 9 



EXHIBITION PAVILION: 

Tampere; Paris Exposition; New York World's Fair; Hedemora; 
Venice Bienniale. 



Breaking these down into their respective periods: 

Early "first notice" projects: 

1928-30 TURUN SANOMAT, Turku 

A ferro-concrete newsprint plant, characterized by 
Narrow bands of windows, nnushroom ceilings, and 
tapered columns in basement, 

1929-30 PAIMO SANATORIUM (=^) 

The competition prize that catapulted young Aalto to 
world-wide recognition. 

1927-34 VIIPURI LIBRARY 

His first use extensively of circular light wells in 
the library and undulating ceiling in the community 
auditorium. 

Pre-War "Scandinavian Modern": 

1937-39 SUNILA FACTORY AND HOUSING 

A nnodern industrial community designed for the 
peninsula adjacent to Kotka. 

1938 VILLA MAIREA RESIDENCE (*) 

One of his few houses designed for his patroness, 
Mairea Gullichson, which has many elements intro- 
duced that Aalto develops in later projects. 

1939 FINNISH PAVILION, New York World's Fair 

The project that attracted attention in the United States 
and led to his invitation to M, I. T. during the war. 

American Period and Post- War Planning: 

1947 BAKER DORMITORY, Massachusetts Institute of Technology 

His only project in the United States. 

page 10 



1949 OTANLEMI PLAN 

Competition prize layout for university town. 
1947 REGIONAL PLAN AND TOWN CENTER PLAN, Imatra (*) 

His most significant, realized, planned group. 

1949 OULU TOWN PLAN 

A bold plan for redevelopment (unrealized). 

Post- War in Finland, Multi- Unit, Long-Term: 

1950-51 SAYNATSALO VILLAGE HALL (see analysis) 

1952-56 NATIONAL PENSION INSTITUTE, Headquarters and Housing 

A large, massive business structure in Helsinki. 

1952-57 TEACHER'S COLLEGE, Jyvaskyla (*) 

Prize winning campus plan for many types of buildings, 
added to existing campus. 

1952-58 SEINAJOKI CHURCH, Centrum Grouping 

The first of a series of church designs. 

Recovery and boom, mostly Helsinki projects: 

1952-54 RAUTATALO (Iron House), Helsinki 

First large office building for downtown part of city. 

1955 AALTO'S OWN STUDIO OFFICE, Munkkiniemi 

Office is moved from Engineers' Club to near own suburban 
residence. 

1955-58 HOUSE OF CULTURE, Helsinki' 

Business offices and auditorium 
1956-58 CHURCH OF THREE CROSSES, Vuoksenniska, Imatra (*) 

One center in the planned town of Imatra 

page 11 



Overseas Projects, Invitational or Competition: 
1956-59 MAISON CARREE, Bazoches 

Near Paris, France, done for the art dealer, Louis Carre, 
1958 BAGDAD ART MUSEUM, postal and telegraph office. 

Unrealized because of revolution. 
1958 CULTURAL CENTER, Wolfsburg, Germany (*) 

1958 APARTMENTS, Bremen, Germany 

Like a casual hand of cards. 
1958 TOWN HALL. Kiruna, Sweden 

Solution "Aurora Borealis," (unrealized). 

1958 AALBORG ART MUSEUM, Denmark 
Prize winning solution 

1959 OPERA HOUSE, Essen, Germany 
Prize winning solution 

1959 CHURCH SEMINARY, Wolfsburg, Germany 

A grouping of buildings. 
Recent efforts in Finland: 

1958 ROVANIEMI HOUSING 

Being built slowly in units. 
I960- OTANIEMI TECHNICAL INSTITUTE 

Main Buildings 

1959-61 JYVASKYLA KESKI-SUOMEN MUSEUM 

Historical Museum with exhibition and lecture halls 
opposite campus. 

page 12 



Housing for National Pension Institute 
Munkkiniemi 



1959-61 ENSO-GUTZEIT OFFICE BUILDING, Helsinki 

A new theme in business building design, reflecting 
"white city of the north. " 

1960-61 CITY PLAN FOR HELSINKI CENTRUM, (known as Keskus) 

A nnaster plan added to "the most blueprinted city in the 
world. " A crowning achievement which may require ten 
to fifteen years to realize. 



* PAIMIO TUBERCULOSIS SANATORIUM (1929-30) 

Paimio, near Turku, Finland, cited by Gideon as one of three insti- 
tutional buildings linked to the rise of city architecture, is the com- 
petition prize that catapulted the young Aalto, then in practice with 
Erick Bryggman; into international fame. Located on a hilltop, the 
290- patient main building is the center of a self-contained community 
in the midst of a forest. The six- story wings, topped with a solar iunn, 
are a composition of cantilevered balconies. There is a purity of 
concrete form linked to such small but integral details as having three 
walls of each room being "hard" and one "soft", with the walls painted 
of a soft indefinite tone and the ceiling a bit darker so as to be easier 
on the eyes of the bed-ridden patient, and the balance effected be- 
tween natural and artificial lights in each patient area. The hand 
basin, for example, receives falling water at a slight angle to a- 
void undue splashing, and the door knobs are moulded to fit the hand 
more easily. The reinforced concrete outside walls are 4" thick 
with a 4" thick facing of brick and a 1-1/2" interior facing of com 
pressed cork. The whole hospital is conceived for the physical needs 
of the patient and for the psychological effect of the environment. It 
is designed as an integral whole, to which each part is a necessary 
element. Even pine trees are planted in tubs along the balconies to 
soften the harsh lines. The Finn is appreciative of beauty in such 
minor details. 



* VILLA MAIREA (1938-39) Country residence for Mrs. GuUichson. 

In the NEW YORK HERALD TRIBUNE, June 30, I960, Professor 
Aalto is quoted as saying, "I tell you, it is easier to build a grand 
opera or a city center than to build a personal house. " Indeed, the 
only other private residences he has designed are his own residence 



page 13 



Classroom Building and Track - Teachers' College 

Jyvaskyla 



in Munkkiniemi and that of Monsieur Carre at Bazoches, France, 
near Paris. Villa Mairea has the same milestone position in the 
works of Aalto as perhaps the Savoy House to Le Corbusier, the 
Barcelona Pavil ion to Mie s, or the Winslow House to Frank Lloyd 
Wright. He has been able to experiment with many innovations 
which were more fully developed in other projects, such as the 
undulating wall, design and manufacture of individual lamps and 
furniture, the subtle juxtaposition of materials, the "orga.nic" i- 
dentification with natural environment and site, and a spatial or- 
ganization that gives a slight hint of what lies beyond. The over- 
all effect is not a garish display of wealth, but a simple and rus- 
ticated country house for a wealthy woman of exceedingly culti- 
vated taste, in which value mater ialis are easily mixed with the 
most commonplace in a casually deceptive mianner. This house 
is located near Noormarku, Finland, 



* BAKER DORMITORY (1947-48) Massachusetts Institute of Technology 

This was the only design commission accepted by Aalto during the 
war years when he served as Professor of Experimental Archi- 
tecture at M.I. T, , in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Indicative of 
this milestone is that Aalto places the elevation drawing of the 
Baker Dorm on the wall beside his work desk. Aalto returned 
after this design to Finland and for several years his best efforts 
went into planning and reconstruction during a "lean period. " 
Large architectural commissions were not to follow for some 
years. The Baker Dormitory stands in contrast to the other mas- 
sive stone, classic monuments of the university like a "brutalistic 
snake, " but its concept is simply to utilize to the m.aximum the 
view of the Charles River. The library and lounge areas are rem- 
iniscent of the Viipuri Library in the spatial arrangement, the 
stairs, and the overhead light wells. The stark and somewhat 
brutal placing of the main staircase, enclosed but placed outside 
the main face of the wall, was an innovation of this post-war per- 
iod. It has been said that the detailing and craftsmanship on this 
building suffered from the relatively high labor costs in machine- 
directed America in contrast to his other projects in Finland, 
Scandinavia, or Europe. 



* JYVASKYLA TEACHER'S COLLEGE (1952-57) Master Plan and Design 

As in most of Aalto's key commissions, this was a competition award 
for Jyvaskyla, the city in south central Finland where Aalto studied as 

page 14 



t 



< 



Tower in Form of the Cross - Seinajoki Chur 



a boy. It consists of approximately ten buildings, or units of 
buildings, linked together. This complex consists of everything 
from residence dormitories to the auditorium. This is a "uni- 
versity-type" college not often found in Finland, and is U-shaped 
in campus plan. The placing of the various buildings is in a subtle 
relationship, often on a slight angle to each other, emphasizing 
the hieratic effects as one walks up and down, over, and around, 
in an approach carefully studied for its casualness and simplicity. 
The amphitheater consists of stone blocks, rough hewn, arranged 
in arcs, facing the high wall of solid brick of the main building 
(a wall broken at several points, creating interesting shadow lines 
vertically, and of carefully selected brick colors that vary the 
tone). The over-all effect is of a university acropolis, higher 
than the city, overlooking the valley and the long lake that ends 
nearby. Adjacent to the university grounds is the Aalto- designed 
Keski-Suomen Museo which was recently opened. 



>>= IMATRA CHURCH (1956-58) 

"The Church of the Three Crosses" in the community of Vuoksen- 
niska is one of several groupings in the planned city of "Imatra" 
on the border of the U. S. S. R. Aalto planned Imatra as an area 
that would grow together in a complex over the years. One com- 
munity was invited to develcp the principal building and "center. " 
This church would have other purposes than worship services on 
Sunday. This church was the first by Aalto after he completed 
the Seinajoki Church, and it is the intermediate step before his 
Wolfsburg, Germany, Church Center which is now under construc- 
tion. This Imatra Church it^ often cited as his finest ecclesiastical 
design, as Saynatsalo, and it is only fitting that this masterpiece 
be located in a Finnish village in the backwoods rather than in the 
hubbub of a larger city. Instead of designing assembly areas ad- 
jacent to the sanctuary, the inain body can be divided into three 
independent areas, each with its own natural and artificial light- 
ing and outside entrances. Cnly the choir section, with room for 
250 persons, is used permanently as a sanctuary. On important 
occasions, nearly 1,000 persons can be accommodated by opening 
the sliding walls. Among the significant details to be noted are 
the slender bell tower that is as straight as the surrounding pine 
trees, the manner in which the mortuary ramp into the basement 
is shown on the elevation, the contrast to relatively window-less 
east elevation with the large double-sash windows on the west, 
the custom design of fixtures, and lastly, acoustical design. A- 
coustical trials with light rays were attempted before the final 
undulating ceiling pattern was adopted. 

page 15 



4 



Terrace and Balcony - Keski-Suomen Museo 
Jyvaskyla Central Finland Museum 



i. 



* WOLFSBURG CULTURAL CENTER (1959) Wolfsburg, Germany 

Aalto's growing prestige has been the cause of several recent 
commissions in Germany, including this "foldhaus" in the "Volkswagen 
City. " Now under construction, only a few drawings and model pho- 
tographs have been released, but upon completion much publicity will 
appear. It occupies a position alongside the central square of the town, 
and its dominant characteristic is the fan- shaped arrangement on the 
second floor containing five lecture halls of the "people's high school. " 
The library features light wells and a custom skylight appears over a 
connmon room. Much of the structure is based on a repetitive module, 
but then at the appropriate point, the line becomes broken and turns 
into this remarkable fan outline. The facade will be of marble and 
glass; a large model recently appeared at the exhibition of Finnish 
architecture in Stockholm. 



* HELSINKI CITY CENTER (1960-61) "Keskus" 

This long range plan for the Centrum takes us ten to fifteen years 
into the future and links to the past city plans of Engel, Saarinen, 
and Krakstrom for the "most blueprinted city in the world. " The 
complex problems of rail and auto traffic, parking, government 
office space, urban renewal, cultural facilities, city de-centrali- 
zation are solved in the Keskus, finished by Aalto in March and 
presented to the Finnish government and to the City of Helsinki. 
Photographs and drawings appear in the August, 1961, CASA BELLA. 
Helsinki Center, based upon the Railway Terminal, Sokos, Parlia- 
ment Building, and the post office, will be for business and culture, 
leaving the old city center on the waterfront untouched. Helsinki- 
North will be a suburban commercial area in Pasila, 3 kilometres 
to the north. The Keskus unites the presently separated areas of 
Kallio and Toolo, east and west, and the Olympic Stadium sports 
area, railway terminal, and business district, north and south. 
The anchor of the plan is the Mannerheim Monument and a large 
triple-deck plaza called "the central place" that cantilevers over 
the lake and conceals shopping and automobile parking areas. Aalto, 
the architect, will probably design only the opera house, post office 
annex, and one business building. 



page 16 



Entrance Canopy and Undulating Facade 
Helsinki House of Culture 



A SPECIAL ANALYSIS - SAYNATSALO 



From a plane flying from Helsinki to Jyvaskyla, one can see the \-iew 
of the 100-mile long Lake Paijanne, and at the lake's end, in the sweep 
of an eye, the city of Aalto's boyhood, the Teacher's College on the 
hilltop, and not far away, the village of Saynatsalo at water's edge, 
and Aalto's summer home on the island. 

In a visit to Saynatsalo Town Hall, one can see "the touch of a Master 
in the forest. " It is unfortunate that architectural magazines have 
never done justice thus far to this project., perhaps because it is 
so far from Helsinki, though the Neuenschwander book devoted many 
pages to photographs, details, and plans. Seldom does one building 
seem to personify the life, aspirations, and talents of the master 
architect as much as this village civic center, the largest of six 
buildings Aalto proposed in his master plan for the area which is yet 
to be realized. 

As it stands alone, it has beauty. Once when a neon sign was erected 
that blocked the view, it was rumored that Aalto and friends staged 
a raiding party by night from nearby Murratsalo that destroyed the 
offending bit of commercialism. 

As in the Church of Imatra, Aalto has done his best work of its type in a 
small village in which he has become involved in the life ana habits 
of the simple people who will use his design. Aalto has spent many 
vacations in sunny Italy, and come back inspired by the hil, piazzas 
of the small Italian towns. Saynatsalo is the first project in which 
he has used a raised mound as part of his design, thereby putting 
the courtyard on the "main" level, and relegating the business shops 
to the lower ground level where the bus stops. This design shows 
mastery of wood and stone, infinite care afforded to the smallest 
interior detail, and the over all integration of the design, within and 
without, to its environment. 

Aalto is quoted in TIME Magazine October 5, 1959, "I wanted to 
make it a town center, a building that would gather in people, so 
I put the garden inside, and then the inside is no longer neutral. I 
lifted the building up to make a vertical difference between the traf- 
fic in the street and the people meeting inside. The street is full 
of the gases from automobiles. We lift up the human being and put 
him in a bette : world. " How many wealthy American towns of 3, 000 
possess such a civic center with such careful planning and design? 



page 17 



When first approaching the Town Hall through the pines, one is 
vaguely aware that this is a multi- level building of some complexity. 
There is obviously a row of commercial shops on the first level, 
owing to glass display windows, but curiosity is aroused as to the 
second floor of brick wall, punctuated by a continuous but varying 
fenestration covered with vertical strips or blinds. Above and be- 
hind looms a curious box-like tower with a sloped roof. vVhat is it? 
Walking past the shops and around the corner, this shape appears 
as a high brick wall, topped with a band of windows, and terminat- 
ing on one side as a jagged line, owing to a succession of cantilevered 
walls. (See illustration. ) This indicates there is something rather 
unique going on inside. Next is a suggestion of the formal staircase, 
inviting the viewer to walk up. At the top is a pleasant garden court- 
yard. The first door is to the library and reading rooms over the 
shopping area. On the right is an entrance to a U-shaped passage- 
way encompassing the garden and fountain. There are walls of glass 
on the left and city offices on the right. As one enters the major jjas- 
sageway, there is a passage leading up and around to the large city 
council chamber, but it is isolated from the chatter of the hallway 
visitors. The inner sanctunn has a high ceiling with dramiatic and ex- 
uberant wood trusses flairing out as though intended to be the center 
of attention, but in reality are structurally integral to the building. 
At the opposite side of the courtyard from the fornnal stairs is an 
informal terrace staircase going down^ with growing grass held m 
place by form-work boards in a broken pattern not unlike contour 
terrace farming. Next to this is a brick and concrete staircase lead- 
ing to the private apartment of the caretaker. Once back on the ground 
level and looking up at this staircase, a totally different vista appears 
than from the formal staircase. 

In contrast to the excitement of the cantilevered council chamber on 
the other elevation, the opposite side of the Town Hall complex is 
modestj but the wall is recessed outward slightly at two different 
points, thereby reading as three distinct units. When the viewer 
walks behind the structure, he is aware of the window placement 
and the curious effect created by the recessing brick work which 
appears every few feet (always 1/2 brick wide, 1/2 brick deep, but 
the termination point varies in an undulating line). This effect softens 
the rigidity of the over-all form. The brick surface is of varied 
brick, both in color and in placement. It was tested personally by 
the architect at his experimental house nearby. The play of shadows 
from the forest adds to the excitement of the surface. 

Many visitors can not afford the two hours necessary to understand 
the wholeness of the design, and are surprised to find in -fche council 
chambers a Leger painting "to counter-balance a large map of the com- 
munity on the wall, and this painting in turn is placed next to a 

page 18 



carefully louvred wood-blind window which provides the necessary 
natural light to accentuate the bright colors in the painting -- a 
touch of French avant garde in backwoods Finland. Cylindrical 
lamps are suspended from the high ceiling to provide the artificial 
light necessary during the long and dark winter months. 

In Finland there is no money to be wasted on affectation or absurd 
architectural postures, but the low cost of labor, the availability 
of wood, and the abundance of hand- craftsmen with a pride in their 
skill make it possible to have such custom details. This little 
center is loved by the citizens who use it, and perhaps that is the 
highest salutation to the architect. It is also applauded by the pub- 
lic at large as well as the architectural critics. 



page 19 



Entrance Elevation from Bus Stop 
Saynatsalo Village Hall 



Stairs to Upper Court 
Saynatsalo Village Hall 



The Shopping Area 
Saynatsalo Village Hall 



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A Stairway Detail 
Saynatsalo Village Hall 



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INLAND'S ARCHITECTURAL FUTURE 



In Finland no architect goes without work s i nn p 1 y 
because he is "too good. " Competitions are held for practically 
every important church or public project in every city. There is 
always city planning work being done. The young architect is very 
busy during this period of suburban expansion in Helsinki and gen- 
eral high level of economy. The lean post-war period of reparations 
payments and slow recovery are over. In Finland now, it is "what 
you can do, " not "who you know" that counts. 

After Aalto, there are perhaps thirty Finnish architects of younger 
years capable of outstanding design ability. They do well at honne 
and in international competition abroad. Most of these architects 
have small offices with three or four students or recent graduates 
as helpers. Such studios have an international flavor. Many for- 
eigners studying architecture at the Institute of Technology work 
in these offices. One can find a multitude of languages, and oc- 
casionally an Ethiopian, Turk, Japanese, or South American who 
has come this great distance. 

VILJO REVEL is known for his Palace Hotel in Helsinki, and other 
pilotis- supported structures in Finland. He and his associates 
enter many competitions. 

RIEMA PIETILA is looked to by some as the promise of the future, 
owing to his youth and dedication, and his research in morphology. 
He won the Tampere Cathedral Prize and designed the Brussels 
Fair Pavilion. 

VELI PAATELA worked for Aalto on the Baker Dormitory at M. I. T. 
and later for Saarinen. He has done mostly clinics and hospitals. 

OLAV HAMMARSTROM is practicing in America. He has a one 
man office which produces quality church designs and, as Paatela, 
he worked both for Aalto and Saarinen, as well as doing planning 
in Finland between the Winter War and World War II. 

KAIJA AND HEIKKI SIREN have been winning many Finnish design 
competitions. 

KEIJO PETAJA is known for his Lautaasari Church which was done 
in collaboration with designer Ilmari Tapiovaara. 

AARNE ERVI and JORMA JAR VI do schools, commercial and housing 
projects. Jarve is especially known for his Helsinki Post Office. 

page 20 



KAARLO LEPPANEN and MATTI ITKONEN are two of Aalto's assist- 
ants who have won competitions. 

PAULI SALOMAA does glass boxes similar to those of S. O. M. , i. e. , 
his Autotalo and Kaivokatu 10. 

JONAS CEDERCRUETA and HELGE RAILO did the Central Hospital of 
Jyvaskyla. 

The SUOMALAINEN brothers in Helsinki won a church competition that 
marks them for future greatness, and AARNO RUSSOVUOI has the church 
prize at Hyvinkaa, and many other competition awards for future designs. 

Cte should also speak of Tiovo Paatela, OUi Kivinen, Prof. Aulis Blom- 
stedt, Markus Tavio, Einari Terasvirta, Tarja Toivianinen, Osmo Sipari, 
Esko Makel, Esko Korhonen, Eero Eerikainen, Hilding Ekelund, Jaako 
Kaikkonen, who have been influenced by Aalto and tke pioneering heri- 
tage. When the present demand for housing and planning is satisfied; then 
they will turn their eyes on the world and design abroad. The rest of the 
world will probably only know them through magazines or journals, trav- 
els, books, exhibitions, or discussions with other architects. If they do 
not become well known, it will be because Finland is a distant country 
from the United States and the Finns do not like to publicize themselves. 

Finland is a mecca for good architecture and a fountainhead for Scandinavia. 
Aalto resembles a "singer" from KALEVALA - LAND OF HEROES, the 
Finnish folk myth. It speaks of coming generations: 

Let us clap our hands together. 
Let us interlock our fingers. 
Let us sing a cheerful measure. 
Let us use our best endeavors, 
While our dear ones hearken to us. 
And our loved ones are instructed, 
While the young are standing round us, 
Of the rising generation. 

But let this be as it may be, 

I have shown the way to singers 

Showed the way, and broke the tree-tops j 

Cut the branches, shown the pathway.. 

This way therefore leads the pathway. 

Here the path lies newly opened. 

Widely open for the singers, 

And for greater ballad singers. 

For the young, who now are growing, 

For the rising generation. 



ARCHITECTURE AT RICE SERIES 



Number Title & Date 



ON PEOPLE AND THINGS 
20 September 1961 



William W. Caudill 



THE UNITED NATIONS CONFERENCE 

ON THE NEW SOURCES OF ENERGY 

(CONFERENCE DES NATIONS UNIES 

SUR LES SOURCES NOUVELLES D'ENERGIE) 

30 October 1961 



Paul Jacques Grillo 



RICE PRECEPTORSHIP PROGRAM 
10 December 1961 



William W. Caudill 



ALVAR AALTO AND THE ARCHITECTURE 
OF FINLAND 
1 March 1962 



Scott D. Hamilton, Jr. 



CORYL LaRUE JONES — Editor of the Series